When a Group race is won by a margin of 12 lengths, we have to sit up and take notice – even when the winning margin owes quite a lot to the race being run on very heavy ground. The race in question was the Group 3 Prix de Conde, which numbers the likes of Top Ville, Groom Dancer, Pistolet Bleu, Celtic Arms, Poliglote and Latice among its past winners. But the latest winner, Holy Roman Emperor’s son Morandi, isn’t notable simply for his winning margin. Now a winner of four of his six starts, including the Group 1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud, Morandi is the product of a mating between a son of Danehill and a daughter of the Prix du Jockey-Club winner Bering.

Danehill himself had only seven foals out of daughters of Bering, but as many as three of them became stakes winners. Although none of the three was exceptional, the best being the very useful 2004 Irish juvenile Russian Blue, any cross which produces 43% stakes winners must have something going for it.

With Danehill gone, or out of their financial reach, owners of Bering mares inevitably moved on to trying them with sons of the three-time champion sire. Remarkably, Holy Roman Emperor is one of six sons which now have stakes winners to their credit out of daughters of Bering. Five of the six – Danehill Dancer, Dansili, Desert King, Rock Of Gibraltar and Holy Roman Emperor – have sired at least one Group winner from them.

With Danehill gone, or out of their financial reach, owners of Bering mares inevitably moved on to trying them with sons of the three-time champion sire

The pick of these Group winners is Dansili’s son Harbinger, who ran away with the King George, but Holy Roman Emperor has statistics which are well worth noting. He has only six foals bred this way but they include not only Morandi but also Ishvana, who followed up her fine second to Samitar in the 2012 Irish 1,000 Guineas with a victory in the Jersey Stakes.

It is well worth adding that Ishvana’s dam was a maiden with a Timeform rating of 60, while Morandi’s dam Vezina failed to win in seven attempts. Another of the Danehill sons’ Group winners has a dam which was still a maiden at the end of an 18-race career. To give the full picture I should point out that the other three Group winners, Harbinger, Shimmering Surf and Sofast, are all out of Listed winners.

So why is this type of pairing coming up with the goods? Anything concerning Danehill, with his 3 x 3 inbreeding to Northern Dancer’s dam Natalma, is likely to concern the addition of more Northern Dancer blood. Alternatively, there may well be more lines to Natalma or her dam Almahmoud.

Bering’s sire, the Prix Ganay winner Arctic Tern, had the distinction of being one of three champion sires produced by daughters of Almahmoud, the others being Natalma’s son Northern Dancer and Cosmah’s son Halo. Almahmoud appeared in the third and fifth generations of Bering’s pedigree.

Holy Roman Emperor and Rock Of Gibraltar both have extra Northern Dancer blood, which means they are inbred 4 x 4 x 4 to Natalma. Harbinger is out of a mare inbred 4 x 3 to Northern Dancer, Ishvana’s dam is inbred 3 x 4 to Northern Dancer’s son Lyphard and Sofast’s dam also has two lines of Lyphard.

Conformation mustn’t be overlooked, either. As Holy Roman Emperor is small and Danehill Dancer and Rock Of Gibraltar are medium-sized, they may benefit from a good-sized mare – and Bering stood at nearly 16.2hh.

Medicean’s magic touch with Danehill’s girls
It is over seven years since I first wrote in this column about the concept of building several lines to Natalma and Almahmoud via Danehill and Medicean.

I explained that Medicean’s sire Machiavellian was out of Coup De Folie, a mare inbred 3 x 3 to Almahmoud through her daughters Cosmah and Natalma. As Medicean’s dam Mystic Goddess was by Northern Dancer’s son Storm Bird, Medicean’s pedigree featured 4 x 4 inbreeding to Natalma and 5 x 5 x 5 to Almahmoud.

“Of course Machiavellian’s successes coincided with the more and more impressive achievements of Danehill, a stallion inbred 3 x 3 to Natalma,” I wrote. “Working on the basis that you apparently can’t have too much of a good thing, the Cheveley Park Stud team included three daughters of Danehill – two of them Group winners – in the sizeable number of mares they sent to Medicean in his first season.”

Pointing out that two of these three daughters of Danehill appeared to have produced potentially smart performers in Regal Royale and Nannina, I added that “you can be sure that more mares by Danehill will be heading in Medicean’s direction”.

Nannina, of course, went on to win the Fillies’ Mile, Coronation Stakes and Windsor Forest Stakes, whereas Regional Counsel, a similarly-bred colt from Medicean’s second crop, won the Group 3 Anglesey Stakes in 2006. I’m sure their actions spoke much more loudly than my words, and Medicean started to receive more and more Danehill mares.

Medicean now has 46 foals of racing age out of daughters of Danehill and this cross has been back in the news thanks to the combined efforts of those very good four-year-old fillies Siyouma and Sapphire. Siyouma became a double Group 1 winner in the autumn by taking the Sun Chariot Stakes and EP Taylor Stakes, whereas Sapphire won the British Champions Fillies’ and Mares’ Stakes, which was a Group 1 in all but name. For good measure, one of Medicean’s other Group-winning daughters in 2012 is Mince, whose dam is by Danehill Dancer.

Four Group winners from 46 foals is 9% which is an excellent strike-rate by today’s standards.

Inbreeding plays its part in legacy of Northern Dancer

Close inbreeding may be taboo in human society but it certainly isn’t in the thoroughbred world. At last year’s foal sales a Sea The Stars filly inbred 2 x 3 to Urban Sea sold for €300,000 and this year’s Orby Sale saw Stephen Hillen pay €260,000 for a Fastnet Rock colt which is inbred 3 x 2 to Royal Academy.

On the track we have recently seen Leitir Mor, a tough colt inbred 2 x 3 to Danehill, finish second to Dawn Approach in the Dewhurst. Other examples which spring to mind are two of this year’s French Group 3 winners. One of them, the Deep Impact filly Aquamarine, is inbred 3 x 2 to Alzao, whereas the Peintre Celebre colt Xanadou is inbred 2 x 3 to Nureyev.

Alzao, Nureyev, Danehill and Royal Academy all had Northern Dancer blood flowing through their veins, so it might be relevant to see to what extent close inbreeding played a part in this great stallion’s legacy.

While it is hard to quantify, there are numerous important winners inbred 3 x 3 to the brilliant Windfields Farm stallion. Rock Of Gibraltar, Big Brown, Desert King, Exceed And Excel, Holy Roman Emperor, One Cool Cat, Touch Gold and Congaree are just some of the Group/Grade 1 winners bred this way.

But what about 2 x 3 inbreeding? The answer is that Northern Dancer’s sons had several Group winners whose dams were by other sons of Northern Dancer. They included Nureyev’s dual Pacific Classic winner Skimming (out of a Lyphard mare). Another was Sadler’s Wells’s daughter Silk And Scarlet (who also had a dam by Lyphard). Sadler’s Wells also sired five stakes winners with Northern Dancer second dams, including the Irish St Leger winner Septimus.

Incidentally, Septimus was withdrawn from stud because of fertility problems, which puts me in mind of Coronation V, Marcel Boussac’s 1949 Arc winner who was inbred 2 x 2 to Tourbillon. This mare was barren in each of her ten years as a broodmare, which underlines that very close inbreeding isn’t without its risks.

That said, being inbred 2 x 3 to Northern Dancer has proved no hindrance to several broodmares. The Juddmonte-bred Silk And Scarlet has Group 1 winners as her first two foals – the Japanese colt Eishin Apollon and the 2012 Jebel Hatta winner Master Of Hounds.

Few would deny that Sadler’s Wells has every right to be considered in the same class as Northern Dancer

The French Listed winner Viviana, another Juddmonte mare inbred 2 x 3 to Northern Dancer, produced two major American winners in Sightseek and Tates Creek, plus the dam of the dual Guineas winner Special Duty. Viviana’s less talented sister Willstar also produced Group 1 winner Etoile Montante, and three of her daughters have produced stakes winners.

Sadima, an unexceptional racemare by Sadler’s Wells, used her 2 x 3 inbreeding to Northern Dancer to excellent effect, producing the Group 1 winners Youmzain and Creachadoir. Reveuse De Jour, a non-winning Sadler’s Wells mare inbred 2 x 3 to Northern Dancer, produced Nova Hawk to Hawk Wing.

Yet another notable broodmare inbred 2 x 3 to Northern Dancer was Smala. Her two close lines of Northern Dancer seemed to come into play when she became the only mare to produce a Group 1 winner to the unconsidered Smadoun. That was Chichicastenango, who excelled himself by siring the top French colts Vision d’Etat and Saonois.

Few would deny that Sadler’s Wells has every right to be considered in the same class as Northern Dancer. Fourteen sires’ championships and seven consecutive broodmare sire titles have left no doubt about his abilities. With the 2011 Dewhurst Stakes winner Parish Hall being inbred 3 x 3 to the Coolmore legend, the door is now open to more inbreeding of a similar nature – especially when several of the higher-priced new stallions, such as Frankel, Nathaniel, So You Think and Henrythenavigator, will have Sadler’s Wells in the third generation of their progeny’s pedigrees.